The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

A Study of Relationship-building Using Ethnological Materials

Joint Research Coordinator ITO Atsunori

Reserch Theme List


Indigenous Peoples in USA, ethnological material, Japanese museums


With recent improvements in IT and transportation networks, the world’s “unexplored regions” have been shrinking dramatically. It has become possible for those who live in such regions to communicate directly with researchers, demand that ethnological museums provide information related to their ethnic group, and scrutinize and manage such information. Ethnological museums and researchers can no longer define their audience as exclusively those who visit museums, use materials provided by museums, or read museum research reports. The scope of museum users must be expanded to include the source communities that produced museum source materials. Finding ways to cooperate effectively with source communities has thus become an urgent issue. The objective of this research is to explore how to construct relationships between source communities and museums or other collecting institutions. Three central questions are explored: the relationship of researchers to the researched (in the case of Native Americans); management of intellectual property; and cooperation with researchers and collecting institutions. Several ethnological museums in Japan with collections of Native American materials will be used as case studies. The concept of cooperation for sharing museum materials with source communities will be explored by experts in sociology, museology, history, social psychology, and cultural anthropology, together with the institutions that maintain collections.